Everyone knows “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard.”
Meet Dinochelus: “terrible claw.”
Although it’s described as a “lobster” in the paper’s title, it’s more of a size that most people would describe as a prawn, or maybe even a shrimp. It’s maybe 10 centimeters long.
I’m pleased that this animal has a prehistoric type of name,* because its claw reminds me of nothing so much as the gaping maw of dozens of reconstructions of marine reptiles. It’s stunning. Click the photo to enlarge; this one is worth viewing full size.
The picture of that claw is so striking, I was hoping that the species description by Ahyong and colleagues might give some glimpse of what this highly impressive appendage was used for. For competition between individuals? For hunting? It certainly looks like it could hold very slippery prey in place!
Sadly, there is no hint of speculation about how this claw is used by this crustacean. This isn’t surprising, as it was found by dredging and trawling during the Census of Marine Life. The authors comment on how the claw makes it possible to identify even damaged specimens, so it’s likely that several arrived at the surface in poor condition. So some lucky grad student will have to travel to the Philippines to do a doctoral thesis on the behaviour of this beast!
Ahyong ST, Chan T-Y, & Bouchet P (2010). Mighty claws: a new genus and species of lobster from the Philippine deep sea (Crustacea, Decapoda, Nephropidae) Zoosystema 32(3): 525-532
* I’m less than thrilled by the species name. It’s D. ausubeli, named for Jesse Ausubel, who gave money to the Census of Marine Life. I’ve never been a fan of naming species after people; I much prefer names to reflect something about the biology of the organism. (Of course, I’ve already admitted I have genus envy.)